If there is one thing that I’ve learned since falling in love with bourbon, it’s that aesthetics are no indicator of good bourbon. Beautiful bottles can disguise crap whiskey and a garish orange label can hide an overlooked gem.
To some people there is nothing more satisfying than the squeak and pop of a cork being worked out of the neck of a bottle. I’ll admit, I used to love it too. Then of course, I picked up an expensive bottle with a rotted natural cork that broke off in the neck. Getting that out without too much dropping into the bourbon was a bit nerve wracking. Synthetic corks are a nice alternative, but I’ve had more than one where the glue let go and I’m left with a piece of rubber in the neck. Screw tops, while not as aesthetically pleasing, are my closure of choice. Not that I’m going to pass up a bottle based on it’s closure. But I will be a little happier drinking it when I don’t have a split second of worry if I imagine the cork seems a little wiggly.
Just as I’m not a fan of natural corks, it’s also no secret that I am not normally a fan of Jim Beam branded products. I love the higher end products that Beam produces. Booker’s is favorite. If I had to choose a go-to, Knob Creek would be in the conversation. For some reason though, the Beam branded releases normally don’t mesh with my palate. It’s not a judgement thing, just a preference thing.
So when I heard last year that Beam was going to try to bring the Jim Beam brand a bit upmarket with Jim Beam Signature Craft and Jim Beam Single Barrel, I was intrigued. I knew they could make some good whiskey and was hoping that this would be an example of it. Just like I have learned not to judge a bottle by it’s label or closure, I’ve also learned not to judge a bottle by the name it’s released under.
One day, last winter, I walked into South Lyndale Liquors and noticed that they had the Signature Craft 12 year old and Spanish Brandy finished versions on the shelf. I tried a sample of each and decided that the Spanish Brandy was the one I had the better chance of enjoying. Looking at the bottle I noticed that this wasn’t finished in brandy barrels, but by adding a small amount of brandy to it.
Jim Beam Signature Craft, Finished with Rare Spanish Brandy
Purchase Info: $39.99 for a 750 mL at South Lyndale Liquors, Minneapolis, MN
Details: 43% ABV
Nose: Brown sugar, candle wax, pencil shavings and apricot
Mouth: Brown sugar, black pepper, cloves and dried fruit
Finish: Warm, slightly mouth numbing with a lingering spicy sweetness
Thoughts: When I tell people that I like this one, I get more than a few skeptical looks. It’s no secret that I normally don’t like Jim Beam branded drinks. It’s possible this is the first. To me it hits a lot of the same notes as some of the rums I like. The finish is much nicer than I would have expected from a 43% ABV whiskey.
And, yes it has a lovely screw cap.